Some unexpected lunchtime sunshine on Monday dragged me out to see whether I could find a real oak tree to follow this year (see My ‘oak tree’). I was looking for something not much of a detour from my regular bike ride to work and, as often seems to be the case, came across another pretty woodland I’ve never visited, very close to home.
It turns out this wood, on the edge of High Shincliffe and overlooking Old Durham Beck and Sherburn Hospital, is on the site of the old Banktop colliery, which operated here between 1839 and 1875. In fact, High Shincliffe was known as Shincliffe Colliery for much of the 19th Century.
The colliery buildings were eventually demolished and the remains covered by shale from the old pit heap. Since then, the area has been allowed to colonise more or less naturally for the last century or so and is home to a range of native trees, including a beautiful stand of birch.
Stumps of some dead birch play host to impressive looking Polypore bracket fungi.
However, lovely as it was wandering through the wood, I was in search of an oak tree and found what I wanted on the very edge of the woodland, overlooking the fields of Manor Farm to the north. This time I’ve made very sure it really is an oak – having leaves still attached helps!
With hindsight, the buds on my oak tree look completely different to last year’s sycamore imposter!
Oak buds (left) and sycamore (right)
I didn’t have my trusty tape measure with me to estimate the tree’s girth and age but it is clearly a young tree, though well established, standing perhaps five metres tall. It carries a good crop of lichen, largely the ubiquitous Xanthoria ucrainica, and there are just enough seedlings poking through the leaf litter to suggest an interesting understorey.
The promise of things to come…